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Are the Neo Sports ads really racist?

The ad features two Sri Lankan men on safari, who get down from the bus to take pictures of a tiger, egged on by the driver, report Saurabh Turakhia and Anita Sharan .

india Updated: Feb 04, 2007 03:45 IST
Saurabh Turakhia and Anita Sharan
Saurabh Turakhia and Anita Sharan

The allegedly ‘racist’ West Indian ad campaign being shown on Neo Sports (and reported by HT in its January 24 issue), has now been extended to the upcoming Sri Lankan cricket series, with similar ads featuring two Sri Lankans on safari, ending with the tagline: “It’s difficult to be a Sri Lankan in India”.

However, things could soon get difficult for Neo Sports instead, with the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) receiving two complaints about the advertising spots.

The ad features two Sri Lankan men on safari, who get down from the bus to take pictures of a tiger, egged on by the driver. As the men approach the tiger, one steps on a twig, annoying the tiger. The bus then moves off a little way, at which the duo looks anxious, and then stops, at which point they are relieved. It then reverses with loud music, angering the tiger, which rises to its feet. The last shot shows the men looking even more anxious, and fades to the tagline.

The advertising industry is still divided in its opinion over the commercials.

According to Bharat Dabholkar, Director, Whynot Communications Pvt Ltd: “Such a humorous ad doesn’t need to be taken so seriously.” Mahesh Chauhan, President, Rediffusion DY&R, also supports this view.

“Often, people tend to have a myopic view. But I feel that the commercial is a nice extension and somewhere, succeeds in capturing the great Indian passion for cricket,” Chauhan said.

Piyush Pandey, executive chairman & national creative director, Ogilvy & Mather Advertising (India), is indignant about the controversy.

“After the ads have run across seven different channels, across 2,000 releases, someone gets up and calls them racist,” fumed Pandey, adding: “Last year’s series between India and Pakistan featured Inzamam and Ganguly as warriors. Would the same people calling these ads racist have said those ads meant a declaration of war on Pakistan?Those who call the ads racist must be out of their minds.”

He added: “Just because there’s this racist thing happening with Shilpa Shetty and Celebrity Big Brother, suddenly, two complaints also spring up at the ASCI. The two are completely different.”

Ad filmmaker Prahlad Kakkar differs. “The ads are just tongue-in-cheek. However, in view of the Shilpa Shetty-racism controversy, they have certainly come under the spotlight regarding racism.

We can’t create a big protest about racism on one hand, and at the same time, look at the other differently.”

Email Saurabh Turakhia:

First Published: Feb 04, 2007 03:45 IST